Evidently, Michael Barone wanted to write a column about his admiration for Joe Lieberman, but he needed to come up with some way to make a politically unimportant retirement seem important, and he needed to manufacture a connection to the fiftieth anniversary of Kennedy’s inaugural address. So Barone ties together Sargent Shriver’s passing with the retirement, which manages to insult the memory of Shriver at the same time that it concocts a far-fetched “link” between Lieberman and JFK.
Shriver was an admirable, principled, and conscientious man who respected the dignity and sanctity of human life, and he also happened to be a contemporary and in-law of Kennedy. Not only did Shriver represent a “link” with JFK, but he represented a particular culture of white ethnic Catholic Democratic politics that has been gradually disappearing for the last fifty years. A pro-life Catholic, Shriver had been a founding member of the America First Committee, and more famously he was also on the 1972 antiwar ticket with George McGovern. In short, he represented much of what was good in the Democratic Party of his time.
None of these things describes Lieberman. He represented the revival of militarism and hawkish foreign policy among Democratic Party leaders during the 1990s and early 2000s, and he was also resolutely opposed to protections for the unborn. He also had no personal connection to Kennedy at all, which makes Barone’s pairing of him with Shriver that much more forced and obnoxious. In fact, virtually the only things that he and Kennedy shared were membership in the Democratic Party and an impulse to support unwise military interventions all around the world, and after 2006 Lieberman couldn’t even claim to belong to the same party anymore. Except for his fondness for militarism, it is hard to see what real “link” with Kennedy Lieberman could have. The one area of policy where Kennedy was most often and most clearly wrong is the one that conservatives insist on emphasizing as his true legacy.
Notably, Barone has nothing to say about any of Shriver’s pro-life and antiwar convictions, because he is writing mainly to offer a tribute to Lieberman as the keeper of Kennedy’s legacy. In short, he uses the death of a good man as nothing more than a springboard to launch into a paean to an increasingly irrelevant warmonger.